Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)



  60. At the moment there has just been a cover-up, has there?
  (Mr McNeill) I do not think it is a cover-up. It is noted in the various annual reports but it is perhaps not highlighted as you might wish.

  61. The list of names of farmers who have cheated the system and have had to pay administrative penalties is listed somewhere, is it?
  (Mr McNeill) No. I think there is a summary in the annual report and accounts explaining the figures.

  62. Is this a summary of the names though?
  (Mr McNeill) No, it is not.

  63. A simple yes then would have been sufficient when I asked whether or not they were named and shamed.
  (Mr McNeill) Apologies. The answer is no, there is no naming and shaming in the way in which you describe.

  64. Can you give us a list then, please, of people to whom administrative penalties have been applied?
  (Mr McNeill) Yes, certainly we can.[4]

  Mr Davidson: Thank you very much.

Mr Rendel

  65. You were saying 50 per cent of 2,500 tip-offs lead to investigations.
  (Mr McNeill) Fifteen per cent.

  66. Fifteen, not 50. I beg your pardon. And that is the 375 you are talking about?
  (Mr McNeill) No, that is the total. As Mr MacKinnon mentioned, the other 85 per cent of criminal investigations arise from employees who are dealing with the claims, inspectors who are undertaking inspections on farms, reporting back to our counter-fraud compliance units and then further criminal investigations may result.

  67. I am getting completely lost now. Of the 2,500 tip-offs, how many lead to investigations?
  (Mr McNeill) Fifteen per cent.

  68. And how many of those lead to criminal investigations?
  (Mr McNeill) Fifteen per cent of those lead to criminal investigations. They may or may not result in prosecutions.

  69. You said you have two levels of investigation, first of all when you get a tip-off.
  (Mr McNeill) There is inspection where we would send an inspector. There would be a desktop analysis of the claim.

  70. How many go beyond desktop?
  (Mr McNeill) Fifteen per cent result in actually sending someone to collect evidence which may result in criminal action being taken.

  71. Only 15 per cent go beyond desktop, is that what you are saying?
  (Mr McNeill) No. The end result of the tip-offs is that 15 per cent of the 2,500 are investigated with a view to taking action in the courts.
  (Mr Bender) There is a process of tip-off on the fraud phone line which then leads to a desktop assessment. If that is thought to be worth pursuing that leads to an inspection and—

  72. What percentage goes to be inspected?
  (Mr McNeill) I am sorry, I do not have that.
  (Mr Bender) We will put that in a note.
  (Mr McNeill) I know that the final result is that 15 per cent result in criminal investigations.

  73. And how many of those 15 per cent are found to be fraudulent?
  (Mr McNeill) In some cases the information from that serves to build up the file which will eventually end up in prosecution, perhaps over a period of time. Again, I can provide that information for particular years. Sometimes it takes a year, perhaps 18 months, before it goes to court.[5]

  74. It would be helpful to know what percentage end up in the courts for some sort of criminal investigation. In paragraph ten we are told that by 1998 Joseph Bowden was on the verge of bankruptcy. That was after he had received a large number of entirely fraudulent monies for things he did not do. It seems an odd way to go bankrupt. Can you explain why he was going bankrupt after receiving a lot of money for nothing?
  (Mr McNeill) There is a difficulty, sir. We are advised by our legal advisers that where we take action in the courts to gain a criminal conviction for fraud that that takes precedent over any civil action to recover debts. In fact, we will rely upon the judgments of the courts in—

  75. You are not answering the question.
  (Mr McNeill) I am trying to explain the timescale.

  76. Do you know why he had gone bankrupt over that time?
  (Mr McNeill) I am sorry, I do not know that.

  77. Is there any evidence of what he had been spending money on?
  (Mr Bender) None of us know the answer to that.

  78. He was given money for nothing and he went bankrupt.
  (Mr MacKinnon) Obviously he was spending rather more than he was both making through the frauds that he was perpetrating and through legitimate—


  79. That is the usual way to go bankrupt.
  (Mr MacKinnon) We know only from evidence in the court that he took expensive holidays, for instance, and some other form of expenditure that clearly we do not know of. Certainly he was bankrupt.

Mr Rendel

4   Ev 27, Appendix 1; and Ev 31, Appendix 1, Annex B. Back

5   Ev 26, Appendix 1; and Ev 30, Appendix 1, Annex A. Back

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